Sarah's Take: Trumbo deal a mistake for D-backs
Club's need for a right-hander power bat not as strong as need for pitching, defense
The D-backs obtained Mark Trumbo in a three-team trade on Tuesday. While most teams want to stockpile starting pitchers, Kevin Towers, the general manager of the D-backs, wanted to add power, and now his primary focus at the Winter Meetings is on acquiring pitching help.
Last year the D-backs ranked last in baseball in home runs from their outfield. A knee injury to possible National League Rookie of the Year Award candidate Adam Eaton hurt their offense. Now Eaton, who is a much better outfielder than Trumbo, is a member of the Chicago White Sox as part of the three-team deal. The Angels received starting pitchers who can't be free agents for several years in exchange for Trumbo. From afar, the D-backs' anxiousness to regain the NL West title from the Dodgers caused Towers to make a blunder that probably will cause them to have more offensive problems than they had in 2013.
True, Trumbo will provide right-handed power for Arizona. Nowadays right-handed power hitters are scarce, so many teams believe it's going to help them win. However, teams need to have multidimensional players to win championships, and Trumbo isn't one of these.
Over his three-years with the Angels, Trumbo has demonstrated an ability to hit for power, averaging 32 homers per year. However, Trumbo can't help his team to manufacture runs. He doesn't have much speed or ability to hit for a high batting average or on-base percentage. Although the D-backs want him to provide protection for Paul Goldschmidt, who had a monster year in 2013, smart teams still will pitch around Goldschmidt, because the likelihood that they can get Trumbo out is very high.
Last January, the D-backs traded Justin Upton to the Atlanta Braves because he struck out too much. They wanted to have a more athletic and aggressive team than they had. Since 2007, the D-backs have won only one division title because they can't manufacture runs. Mostly they haven't been able to get on base or make frequent contact. Last year, when they acquired Martin Prado from the Braves and were going to play Eaton in the outfield, it looked like the D-backs' management finally learned that teams now must manufacture runs instead of relying on power. Although the injury-riddled D-backs had the 12th-most home runs in the NL, they scored the fifth most runs in the league. They wasted many scoring opportunities, but their offensive problems weren't the reason that they didn't represent a better challenge for the Dodgers.
When the D-backs led the division for over half of the season and still didn't win the title, it frustrated everyone involved. A rash of injuries, especially to the pitching staff, led to their collapse. Obtaining Trumbo, who, like Goldschmidt, plays first base, won't help them to get where they want to go. A player who averages 153 strikeouts a season will kill many rallies.
Having fantastic defense is a key component in winning World Series championships, and yet many teams ignore this aspect of the game. In 2013, the D-backs had the second-best defense in the league. Playing Trumbo in left field will weaken it, putting more stress on the pitching staff. The D-backs had the 10th-best pitching staff in the league, and this was where they needed to improve.
To acquire a strikeout king and a defensive liability in the outfield, the D-backs gave the Angels a 22-year-old left-handed starter named Tyler Skaggs. Even though he struggled during his time in the Majors in 2013, teams just don't give away young left-handed starters, no matter how awful they were. They try to teach them how to pitch in the Major Leagues. Towers needed to exhibit more patience with Skaggs.
Although their outfielders only hit 37 home runs all year, the primary problem for the D-backs was their bullpen. Reportedly, Towers has made a lucrative offer to Joba Chamberlain, a right-handed setup man who is a free agent. Chamberlain had been a disappointment for the New York Yankees for most of the last six years. He has had a constant weight problem that led to the Yankees questioning his conditioning program and commitment to baseball.
Finding quality relievers is difficult. Every team desires to improve its bullpen, so prices for most relievers are inflated. Without a great bullpen, no team can be competitive. Although the D-backs probably needed more power from their outfielders, getting a one-dimensional player like Trumbo wasn't the answer. Waiting to get pitching is a mistake for any team, especially for the D-backs, who play over half their games in hitter-friendly ballparks.
Losing focus on improving their run-manufacturing and pitching and maintaining their superior defense probably cost D-backs a chance at divisional title this year.